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African Archaeological Review

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 187–212 | Cite as

Forbidden Images: Rock Paintings and the Nyau Secret Society of Central Malaŵi and Eastern Zambia

  • Benjamin W. Smith
Article

Abstract

This paper examines the rock art of the nyau secret society of eastern Zambia and central Malaŵi. The art dates principally from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It has been known to researchers since the 1970s but has given up few of its secrets. I examine the questions of why the art was made and why the tradition ceased. Key to answering these is the realization that the art belonged to a specific historical and geographic context: the era and area where nyau was forced to become an underground movement because of its suppression by Ngoni invaders, missions, and the later colonial government. The art provides us with detailed insights into the way nyau has served in the process of overcoming and manipulating the traumatic social changes faced by Cheŵa society in the last few centuries.

Cet article examine l'art rupestre de la société secrète de nyau au est du Zambia et Malaŵi centrale. L'art date principalement aux dix-neuvième et bas vingtième siècles. Recherchers ont su l'art depuis les années soixante-dix, mais ils ont appris peu de ses secrets. J'examine les questions de pourquoi l'art était fabriquer et pourquoi la tradition a cessé. Pour résoudre ces questions c'est important à réaliser que l'art était à sa place dans un milieu spécifique d'histoire et géographie: au temps et place où nyau était forcer à devenir un mouvement clandestin à cause de sa répression par les envahisseurs Ngoni, les missions et, plus tard, le gouvernement colonial. L'art nous donne les aperçus détaillé sur comment nyau a servi dans le procès à surmonter et manipuler les changements traumatiques que la société Cheŵa a bravé dans les siècles récents.

Malaŵi Zambia nyau secret societies masks rock painting 

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benjamin W. Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.Rock Art Research InstituteUniversity of the WitwatersrandGautengSouth Africa

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